Much of the discussion focused on the staging of domestic spaces, in their original, domestic use, and when preserved for display, as in the Bronte Parsonage Museum, where Bertola created a series of photographs entitled Residual Hauntings (2011). Bertola is critical the staging of historical spaces, noting the inauthenticity of the objects and decor that are often used in such staging, as well as the artificiality of preserving a space as if frozen in any one particular time. Rich draws parallels with the staging of domestic interiors in the 19th century, and the performance of hospitality that was advised by domestic advice literature of the time. Publications including Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management propagated the idea of the home as an "enterprise" that could be "run for the success of the family unit", and presented an impossible ideal against which Victorian women could measure the success or failure of their domestic activities.
|Residual Hauntings, 2011|
|Killing Time, 2011|
|Scratching at the Surface, 2001|
|After the Fact, 2006|
Bertola and Rich's conversation often turned to the subject of time. Many of Bertola's works have involved reviving old images, revealing surfaces lost to time, or bridging the gaps between periods. Bertola describes her work as "fleeting". Her site-specific work is necessarily temporary. It often has a "fragility", like the dust of After the Fact, that can be swept away. Rich describes her "heartbreak" at imagining how easily Bertola's work can be brushed away. She draws parallels with the domestic labour that can be undone so easily, as clean spaces gather more dirt, and "the entrapment of women" in the neverending cycle of domestic chores (a cycle that is referenced in Bertola's Round and Round, 2016, in which the artist is shown endlessly setting and unsettling a table). It was unusual for her to preserve her images by placing them in a frame, as she has done for Sad Bones (2013-14), giving them a permanence that is not often present in her work.
Preservation, and the effects of time, were foremost in her thoughts when Bertola created Everything and Nothing (2007) at the V&A. In this setting she became very aware of the rituals surrounding the presentation of collected artefacts, and the distinctions made between the labour of those who cared-for those artefacts, and those who cared for the museum's interior. She observed a hierarchy of cleaning, topped by the conservators responsible for cleaning the artefacts, skilled cleaners who are permitted to clean the plinths, and unskilled, "invisible" cleaners with responsibility for the floors. It is the unseen labour of the latter that is most directly referenced in Bertola's work, and that most fascinates Rich.
|Everything and Nothing, 2007|
Goffman, E. (1959), The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, New York: Anchor Books.